Civil War in Spain
1936 - 1939
This Website created on occasion of the 95th Anniversary of the end of the Spanish Civil War on March 28, 1939
MESSAGE OF THE COMINTERN (SH)
ON OCCASION OF THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY
OF FASCIST VICTORY IN THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR
March 28, 1939 – March 28, 2014
Today, 75 years ago, the fascist forces of Franco finally occupied Madrid on March 28, 1939, after a three-year war that transformed Spain into an amount of ruins entirely vulnerable to the harshest capitalist exploitation and oppression.
When the Popular Front won the bourgeois elections in Spain, the darkest forces of reaction couldn’t accept it. The large landowners, the industrial tycoons and their fascist lackeys that were already present in Spain were worried about a government that, although not Marxist-Leninist neither communist, was however a bourgeois-democratic government which wanted to provide workers with some formal “social and labour rights”. These “rights” and the overall policy of the Spanish Popular Front had a bourgeois character and they never represented any kind of serious menace to capitalist mode of production, as the Popular Front never aimed at changing the bourgeois socio-economic order through revolutionary violence. On the contrary, it defended “peaceful ways” and it included reformists and opportunists of many types: Trotskyists, anarchists, social-democrats, republicans, etc. It is true that it also included some communists, but it must be stated that communist participation at the Spanish Popular Front was already influenced by the revisionist tendencies of the “popular front” theories that would culminate in the VII World Congress of the Comintern. Indeed, the Spanish Popular Front could even be positive to bourgeois-capitalist interests, because it would have allowed them to provide proletarians, workers and other exploited and oppressed classes with some fake “rights” that difficult the acquisition of a truly communist consciousness, because it could submerge them in the illusion that capitalist state was now concerned about their “welfare rights” and had not oppressive class nature anymore, all this without basically touching profit accumulation and maximization.
This could have indeed been the case if it was not for the character of Spanish exploitative capitalist-aristocratic classes, which are among the most aggressive and backward of Europe. Spanish exploitative classes have spent their history soaked in the blood of the oppressed classes and peoples. In the XIV and XV centuries, in search for gold and for cheap labour force, they invaded American continent, brutally enslaving Amerindian populations and causing an immensurable genocide that left dead tens of million of native Americans. And it was not by chance that Spain was the last country in the world to abolish Inquisition. In the early XXth century, there were still people in Southern Spain who received harsh physical punishments for having offended the rules of the “Holy Office”. And we could give many other examples of extreme reactionarism by Spanish exploitative classes. Therefore, they were not eager to let workers get with not even some alms provided by the bourgeois “social rights” advocated by the Popular Front. And so they launched a civil war relying on one of their most faithful and valuable instruments: the army. In 1936, Spanish army was full of fascist officials and it was led by generals like Franco who didn’t even try to hide their sympathy for Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. In their war plans, Spanish exploitative classes also counted with another useful ally: Portuguese exploitative classes, who had established their own fascist regime some years earlier and were willing to provide all means to overthrow the Popular Front and replace it with a fascist rule similar to their own and which, in their perspective, was the best manner to prevent socialist revolution.
And so, during three years, Spanish working classes were condemned to suffer the horrors of a deadly Civil War that eventually ended up with the victory of Franco’s fascist forces at the service of capitalist-aristocratic ruling classes. But what led to this situation? Many factors can be listed. One of them was the practical and ideological division that existed among the forces fighting at the side of the Popular Front and that ultimately weakened them in face of fascist offensive. But the most important reason that permitted fascist forces to win the war was undoubtedly the lack of the leadership by the Communist Party, which should have played the role of proletarian vanguard of Spanish toiling masses. Only in this manner could fascist inevitability be defeated and avoided. It is true that Franquist troops were being helped by the Nazi-fascist countries that already existed at the time. But the argument of the “enemy’s superiority” does not hold any water. In Albanian National Liberation War, nazi-fascist forces were also numerically superior and had much better weaponry than Albanian partisans led by the Communist Party. But contrary to what happened in Spain, Albanian communists always managed to keep themselves leading the armed fighting, never sharing this position with anyone else. And so, they expelled the nazi-fascist invaders, won the war, implemented proletarian dictatorship and started to successfully construct socialism:
“Despite the innumerable difficulties we encountered on our road we scored success one after another. We achieved these successes, in the first place, because the Party thoroughly mastered the essence of the theory of Marx and Lenin, understood what the revolution was, who was making it and who had to lead it, understood that at the head of the working class, in alliance with the peasantry, there had to be a party of the Leninist type. The communists understood that this party must not be communist only in name but had to be a party which would apply the Marxist-Leninist theory of the revolution and party building in the concrete conditions of our country, which would begin the work for the creation of the new socialist society, following the example of the construction of socialism in the Soviet Union of the time of Lenin and Stalin. This stand gave our Party the victory, gave the country the great political, economic and military strength it has today. Had we acted differently, had we not consistently applied these principles of our great theory, socialism could not have been built in a small country surrounded by enemies, as ours is.” (Enver Hoxha, Imperialism and the Revolution, Tirana, 1979, edition in English)
If the Spanish Communists and their Bolshevist Party had been leading the armed struggle, it would have transformed the civil war launched by the exploiters into a civil war against the exploiters. But this didn’t happen and during the Civil War in Spain, fascist forces were almost always on the offensive, while the troops loyal to the Popular Front were almost always on the defensive. And in the end, Spanish workers were condemned to endure decades of the dreadful fascist tyranny of Franco that transformed Spain into a slave labour camp in benefit of internal and external exploiters. Spanish communists received the severest treatment of all, with many slaughtered or treated like “sub-human mentally ill” and interned in “therapeutic camps” where fascist doctors used them in their “medical experiments”.
Already during the Civil War, together with the Nazi-fascists, also Anglo-American and French imperialists supported Franco in direct or indirect manners. And after that, they continued to actively support him as a bulwark against communism. The only country which provided some kind of sustenance to the anti-fascist forces was Bolshevist Soviet Union of comrade Stalin fulfilling its duties of proletarian internationalism.
The Spanish Civil War left half million dead and exercised heavy influence in the subsequent course of the Spanish Communist Party. Already before the war, it had been affected by opportunist and reformist deviations, but after the War this situation substantially worsened because most of the authentically communist cadres of the party were killed in the combats. Writing about the revisionist path embraced by the S “C” P, comrade Enver Hoxha remarked:
“Many members of the Communist Party of Spain gave their lives during the Civil War. Others fell victim to the Francoite terror. Thousands and thousands of others were thrown into prison where they languished for many years or died. The terror which prevailed in Spain after the victory of the fascists was extremely ferocious. Franco dealt a heavy blow to the revolutionary vanguard of the working class and the masses of the Spanish people and this had negative consequences for the Communist Party. Losing its soundest, most ideologically prepared, most resolute and courageous element in the armed struggle and during the fascist terror, the Communist Party of Spain came under the negative and destructive influence of the cowardly petty-bourgeois and intellectual element, such as Carrillo and company, who became dominant. They gradually transformed the Communist Party of Spain into an opportunist and revisionist party.” (Enver Hoxha, Eurocommunism is Anti-communism, Tirana 1980, edition in English)
With revisionist disease affecting it more and more, the S “C” P was de facto liquidated in the 90’s, already after the Franquist-fascist form of bourgeois dictatorship had been replaced by a somewhat more “democratic” form of it. And that is how Spain is now under a capitalist-monarchist regime submitted to the interests of American imperialism and whose main representatives are still ideological heirs of Franco’s fascism. For example, in many places of Spain, it is possible to find statues of Franco and until 2005 the general-governor of the region of Galicia was no other than a former minister of Franco. Today, Spain is one the European countries were workers have worst living conditions. They lack even some of the most basic bourgeois “social rights” like free healthcare, subsidy of unemployment, etc. Spain is almost deprived of social security, another characteristic inherited from Franquist period. So, Spanish capitalist-aristocratic exploitative classes can be very grateful for everything that fascism has done for them. But their “happiness” cannot last much longer.
In the Spanish civil war the Spanish People in unity with the internationalists from all over the world sacrificed their life for the anti-fascist struggle against Franco and Hitler-fascists. It is our duty as proletarian internationalists to honor this great internationalist anti-fascist struggle of the people and learn from the negative (and also positive!) experiences for the world-proletarian struggle against world-fascism of today - as a united action of global anti-fascist class-struggle as part and lever of the socialist world revolution.
Thus, the historical internationalist significance of the International Brigades for the world revolutionary struggle of the Comintern (SH) could not go unmentioned. In the near future, the formation of International Brigades will be centrally organized by the Comintern (SH). We uphold the experiences of this internationalist historical event especially for the military solution of the socialist world revolution. But the main lesson of 1936-1939 is that the lack of the proletarian struggle for transformation of democratic revolution into socialist revolution and for the dictatorship of the proletariat has dreadful consequences.
Nowadays more than ever, it is urgent to found the Spanish Section of the Comintern (SH) which will be the organized vanguard of the Spanish proletariat. Only by marching together with the proletarian detachments from all other countries under the global centralized leadership of the Comintern (SH) can Spanish oppressed and exploited classes successfully accomplish socialist revolution, proletarian dictatorship, socialism and communism not only in their country but at a global scale.
Spanish workers – unite!
The times when you suffered defeat are gone!
Now, you have to prepare your final victory as part of the world socialist revolution!
Death to all your internal and external exploiters and oppressors!
Down with the capitalist-monarchist pro-fascist regime that still prevails in Spain!
Don’t let Franco’s ideological heirs detach you from the only way to your liberation: Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism-Hoxhaism!
Don’t be deceived by reformist and opportunist illusions!
Found the Spanish Section of the Comintern (SH)!
Fascist form of bourgeois dictatorship is something inevitable under capitalism!
Only world communism can ensure the abolition of the inevitability of fascism!
Long live world proletarian and socialist revolution!
Long live world proletarian dictatorship!
Long live world socialism and world communism!
Long live the teachings of the 5 Classics of Marxism-Leninism: Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Enver Hoxha!
Long live the Comintern (SH) – the only authentically anti-fascist and communist organization!
In regard to Spain ...
When the war broke out in Spain, the French Communist Party actively assisted the Communist Party of Spain and the Spanish people in the war against Franco with agitation and propaganda and material aid. It called for volunteers to go to Spain, a call to which thousands of members of the party and other French anti-fascists responded, and three thousand of them fell martyrs on Spanish soil. The main leaders of the party took part directly in the war or else went to Spain on various occasions. Most of the volunteers, who set out from many countries to join the International Brigades in Spain, passed through France. It was the French Communist Party which organized their passage.
During the Spanish War the communists and the working class of France gained new experience in battle, and this was added to the old tradition of the revolutionary struggles of the French proletariat. This constituted a great capital, a revolutionary experience gained in organized frontal class battles against the savage Franco reaction, Italian fascists and German nazis, as well as against French and world reaction. This revolutionary capital should have served the party in the critical moments of the Second World War and the occupation of France, but in reality it was not utilized.
* * *
In regard to Spain, it must be said that the directives of the 7th Congress of the Communist International had greater results than in France or Italy. The effect of them was especially apparent during the Civil War. At first the communists did not take part in the Popular Front government, but gave it their support. Nevertheless, the Communist Party criticized the government for its irresolute stand and demanded that it take measures against the fascist danger, against the activity which the fascists carried out, especially the caste of officers, who constituted the immediate danger at that time.
On July 17, 1936 the fascist generals launched their <<Pronunciamento>>. The fascists' plot was well co-ordinated. They had acted under the nose of the leftist government and the authorities established by a government which had emerged from the coalition of the Popular Front. All the anti-fascist forces lined up against this danger. In November the government headed by Largo Caballero was formed with two communist ministers included. Thus a common front was formed to defend the Republic even with arms. The government granted autonomy to the Basques, confiscated the lands of fascists in favour of poor peasants and nationalized all their property.
Right from the start, the Communist Party called on the working class and the people for resistance. The Communist Party did not content itself with appeals, however, but went into action. The members of the party went into the barracks to explain the situation to the soldiers, telling them what the fascists were and what a threat they presented to the workers, the peasants and the people. In Madrid, the capital of Spain, the fascist coup failed.
In other cities, the people, and first of all the working class, attacked the military units which had risen against the Republic and paralysed them. In Asturia the fight of the miners against the fascist troops raged for a month and this province remained in the hands of the people. The fascists could not pass there. The same thing occurred in the Basque region and many parts of Spain.
In the first days of August it seemed that the fascist generals were on the way out and their defeat would have been complete had the troops of fascist Italy and nazi Germany not gone to their assistance immediately, together with the troops recruited in Spanish Morocco and those sent by fascist Portugal.
In a country where the army was led by an old caste of reactionary royalist and fascist officers the fate of the country could not be left to the army, of which a part followed the fascist generals while the rest began to fall apart. Therefore, the Communist Party called for the creation of a new army, an army of the people. The communists set to work to create this army and within a short time managed to set up the Fifth Regiment. On the basis of this regiment, which achieved great fame during the Spanish War, the people's army of the Spanish Republic was built up.
The resolute stand of the Communist Party against the fascist attack, the bold example it set by placing itself at the head of the masses to prevent the advance of fascism, the example which its members set, 60 per cent of whom went to the different fighting fronts of the war , greatly increased the authority and prestige of the party among the masses of the people.
A party grows, wins authority and becomes the leadership of the masses when it has a clear line and hurls itself boldly into struggle to implement it. During the Civil War the Communist Party of Spain became such a party. Between the beginning of the fascist insurrection in July 1936 and the end of that year, the Communist Party increased the number of its members three fold. And despite the fact that in those days people turned to the party, not to cast votes in elections but to give their lives, at no time has any other party, whether the so-called communist party of Carrillo or the other revisionist parties which have opened all their doors to anyone, with religious beliefs or otherwise, workers or bourgeois, who want to join them, been able to show such a growth of its authority and influence as that which the Communist Party of Spain achieved during the time of the Civil War.
The Spanish War came to an end at the beginning of 1939, with the extension of Franco's rule over the whole country. In that war the Communist Party of Spain did not spare its efforts or forces to defeat fascism. If fascism triumphed, this is due, apart from various internal factors, first of all to the intervention of Italian and German fascism, as well as to the capitulationist policy of <<non-intervention>> followed by the Western powers towards the fascist aggressors.
Many members of the Communist Party of Spain gave their lives during the Civil War. Others fell victim to the Francoite terror. Thousands and thousands of others were thrown into prison where they languished for many years or died. The terror which prevailed in Spain after the victory of the fascists was extremely ferocious.
The Spanish democrats who managed to escape arrest and internment took part in the French resistance and fought valiantly, while the Spanish democrats who went to the Soviet Union entered the ranks of the Red Army and many of them gave their lives fighting against fascism.
Although in extremely difficult conditions, the communists continued the guerrilla war and the organization of resistance within Spain. The majority of them fell into the hands of the Francoite police and were condemned to death.
Franco dealt a heavy blow to the revolutionary vanguard of the working class and the masses of the Spanish people and this had negative consequences for the Communist Party. Losing its soundest, most ideologically prepared, most resolute and courageous element in the armed struggle and during the fascist terror, the Communist Party of Spain came under the negative and destructive influence of the cowardly petty-bourgeois and intellectual element, such as Carrillo and company, who became dominant. They gradually transformed the Communist Party of Spain into an opportunist and revisionist party.
Unity with the Khrushchevite Revisionists in the
Struggle against Marxism-Leninism and the
The economic and political conditions which were created in Western Europe after the Second World War were even more favourable to the consolidation and spread of those mistaken opportunist views which had existed previously in the leaderships of the communist parties of France, Italy and Spain and further encouraged their spirit of concessions to and compromises with the bourgeoisie.
Amongst others, such factors were the abrogation of fascist laws and of other measures of restriction and compulsion which the European bourgeoisie had adopted from the first days after the triumph of the October Revolution and had maintained up to the outbreak of the war, with the aim of restraining the upsurge of the revolutionary drive of the working class, to hinder its political organization and prevent the spread of the Marxist ideology.
The re-establishment on a more or less extensive scale of bourgeois democracy, by completely legalizing all political parties except the fascist parties; permitting their unhindered participation in the political and ideological life of the country; giving these parties possibilities for active participation in the electoral campaigns, which were now held on the basis of less restrictive laws, for the approval of which the communists and other progressive forces had waged a long struggle, created many reformist illusions among the leaderships of the communist parties. The view began to establish itself among them that fascism was now finished once and for all, that the bourgeoisie was no longer able to restrict the democratic rights of the workers, but on the contrary would be obliged to allow their further development. They began to think that the communists, emerging from the war as the most influential and powerful political, organizing and mobilizing force of the nation, would compel the bourgeoisie to proceed on the course of extending democracy and permitting the ever greater participation of working people in running the country, that through elections and parliament they would have possibilities to take power peacefully and then go on to the socialist transformation of society. These leaderships considered the participation of two or three communist ministers in the Post-war governments of France and Italy not as the maximum formal concessions which the bour geoisie would make, but as the beginning of a process which would develop gradually up to the creation of a cabinet consisting entirely of communists.
[ ENVER HOXHA : EUROCOMMUNISM IS ANTI – COMMUNISM ]
The Jarama Song
There’s a valley in Spain called Jarama,
It’s a place that we all know so well,
For ‘twas here that we gave our manhood,
And most of our brave comrades fell.
We are proud of our British Battalion,
And the stand for Madrid that they made.
For they fought like true sons of the people,
As part of the 15th Brigade.
With the rest of the international column,
In the fight for the freedom of Spain,
They swore in the Valley of Jarama
That fascism never would reign.
We have left that dark valley for ever (sic),
But its memory we ne’er shall forget,
So before we continue this meeting
Let us stand for our glorious dead.
(document appendix: Appeal of the CC of the CP of Spain)
Telegram from the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U.(B) to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Spain
To Comrade Jose Diaz.
The workers of the Soviet Union are merely carrying out their duty in giving help within their power to the revolutionary masses of Spain. They are aware that the liberation of Spain from the yoke of fascist reactionaries is not a private affair of the Spanish people but the common cause of the whole of advanced and progressive mankind.
16 October 1936
Communist International, August 1936
The Struggle for Workers' and Peasants' Alliances in Spain
The question of strengthening and organizing throughout the country the workers' and peasants' alliances, which are the main buttress of the People's Front, is now the central point of discussion among the workers' organizations in Spain.
A serious change has taken place in the position of the Left wing of the Socialist Party, which was against creating workers' alliances considering them to be only organs of uprising.
Proof of this is to be found in the moods of the members of the Left wing of the Socialist Party. A number of Socialist organizations endorsed the draft of the program of the party drawn up by the Madrid organization, and are demanding that still greater stress be laid upon the need for establishing workers' and peasants' alliances.
Comrade Carrillo, secretary of the Young Socialist League wrote an interesting article on the question of the "alliances" in the newspaper Claridad (May 13) in which he emphasizes the point that for the revolution to be victorious the necessary precondition is that the need for creating organs of proletarian democracy be recognized. The Socialist Party in its present state cannot, in the opinion of Carrillo, give leadership to such a mass organization. Only by "purging and uniting the Socialist and Communist Parties will it be possible to hammer out such an organization as will be able to guide the organs of proletarian democracy".
On May 11 of this year, at a meeting of the Socialist parliamentary deputies and the so-called Compromisarios (delegates appointed to elect the president), Largo Caballero, the leader of the Left wing of the Socialist Party, spoke and expressed himself in favor of establishing alliances to include also the Anarchist National Confederation of Labor.
The reactionary section of the leaders of the Socialist Party continue as hitherto to declare themselves against workers' and peasants' alliances. El Socialista wrote on May 16:
"To create alliances at the price of rejecting all that we must preserve at all costs, namely, the leading role and the discipline of the Socialist Party, means to call the masses to pass over to other organizations with flags flying."
The Congress of the Anarchist National Confederation of Labor took place at the beginning of May in Zaragoza. At this Congress the question of unity (or, as it was called on the agenda of the Congress the question of a "Revolutionary Alliance") was one of the chief questions.
The masses of Anarchist workers, who were convinced by their own experiences during the October struggles (in Asturias, Leon, Valencia and other provinces) of the need for working class unity, insisted that the Congress should categorically express itself in favor of unity and alliances. This imperative demand of the masses was also expressed in many telegrams from the lower organizations. For instance, the Gijon organizations of Anarchists, together with the local branch of the C.N.T.,* sent a telegram to the Congress which reads: "Fifty thousands toilers demand the creating of a revolutionary workers' alliance". The Anarchist trade union of Cardona sent a wire to the Congress, as did the railroad workers of San Geronimo (Seville). Forty thousand members of the Seville Federation of the C.N.T. demanded "trade union unity and the establishment of workers' and peasants' alliances", etc. In their speeches at the Congress a number of delegates demanded unity. For instance, the delegate from Barcelona, Faris Oliver, in his speech stated:
* Anarchist Confederation of Labor.
"The heroic legions of Asturias showed us very glaringly that in the existing situation, faced by a well-organized state power, we cannot count on victory; we need the union of all."
Alvarez, a delegate from Gijon, told the Congress that during the journey of the Asturian delegation, Anarchist workers mandated the delegation to demand from the Congress that alliances be set up everywhere.
Under the influence of these demands, the Congress of the C.N.T. was forced to express its attitude towards this question. The resolution of the Gijon organization proposed that close connections be set up between the C.N.T. and U.G.T.* to struggle for the immediate improvement of the conditions of the working class, and for the "victory of the social revolution in Spain", and also that a revolutionary workers' alliance be established to unite both trade union confederations. This resolution also made provision for the possibility of political parties affiliating to the alliance. To obstruct the adoption of this proposal the leadership of the C.N.T. introduced a resolution of their own (which was adopted by the Congress) which proposed that the U.G.T. conclude a "pact of revolutionary alliance", on the condition that the latter refuses "political and parliamentary collaboration". In other words, the leaders of the C.N.T. proposed to the U.G.T. that in essence they should break with the People's Front and limit the alliances to the participation in them of only the C.N.T. and the U.G.T., excluding the political parties.
There is a special supplementary point to this decision proposed by the C.N.T. leaders which states that the proposals are only of a temporary character, and should serve as a basis for establishing contacts with the U.G.T. until the latter drafts its own counter-proposals. This forced reservation is proof again of the profound urge among the masses for unity, and opens up the possibility for further negotiations.
After the Congress of the C.N.T., the Mundo Obrero, the central organ of the Communist Party of Spain, began a friendly polemic in its pages with the Anarchists as regards the decisions adopted by them regarding unity and the "revolutionary alliance". For instance, in the issue of May 19, the paper wrote:
“We consider that the decisions on the alliances are positive because they express the desire of the masses for unity, and are negative because they place the question of alliances very narrowly.... We wish to tell our comrades of the C.N.T. that that which they call a ‘revolutionary alliance' is a liaison or coordinating committee, a very good thing in itself from the point of view of united action in the struggle for economic demands.... Workers’ and peasants’ alliances are organs of the united front which guarantee united action and raise it to a much higher level.”
In his article entitled “About the Workers’ and Peasants’ Alliances”, published in the Mundo Obrero of May 14, Comrade Diaz, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Spain, noted with satisfaction the statement made by Caballero about the workers’ and peasants’ alliances, and wrote:
“From February 16 till today we have only achieved the first victories; we must go further.... The reactionaries are attempting to create difficulties of all kinds. They provoke conflicts, close down factories and organize sabotage. The task of the workers’ organizations in the ranks of the People’s Front is with the aid of the workers’ and peasants’ alliances to achieve the fulfillment of the demands of the workers and peasants, and at the same time to put an end to the criminal maneuvers of reaction.”
The Communist Party is the consistent supporter and organizer throughout the country of workers’ and peasants’ alliances, which are organs of defense of the Spanish Republic against the fascists and the counter-revolution.
A Lodestar to the Spanish Communists
By José Diaz
The national revolutionary war in Spain kept the revolutionary and progressive forces of the whole world at a high tension for two and a half years. The Spanish people waged a magnificent armed struggle in defense of its revolutionary achievements and its national independence against a superior enemy, a struggle that was protracted, stubborn and rich in heroism.
A united front of the entire international reaction, a united front of the imperialist powers, had actually crystallized against revolutionary Spain. These powers - some openly, others in a more or less concealed form - pursued a policy of intervention on a grand scale against the Spanish people. In order to help reaction strangle the heroic struggle of revolutionary Spain, the leaders of the Second International joined forces with reaction and the traitor Blum, in the name of the Second International and at the behest of the English and French imperialists proceeded to slip the noose of "non-intervention" around the neck of our people.
Thus, the struggle of the Spanish people was strangled by the united forces of reaction which attacked the country. However, the heroic resistance of revolutionary Spain, written in letters of fire, will live forever in the minds of the Spanish and the international proletariat, in the minds of the toiling masses, in the minds of the peoples subjugated and enslaved by capitalism. The lessons of the heroic struggle of the Spanish people will help them to understand better the nature of capitalism, the instigator of predatory wars. These lessons will serve them as a weapon in the struggle against the exploiting classes, in the struggle against the present imperialist war.
The Spanish people found the energy to resist the superior forces for such a long time because it fought for a just cause, because the broadest masses took active part in this struggle with flaming enthusiasm, with unsparing self- sacrifice, with inexhaustible initiative, and because the general uprising of the masses of revolutionary Spain, of the toilers united in the People's Front, evoked a wave of international solidarity in all countries and found unstinted moral and political aid and support primarily among the peoples of the U.S.S.R.
This broad mobilization of the workers, the peasants, the urban petty-bourgeoisie and the progressive intellectuals, however, would not have been possible without the consistent work of the Communist Party, without its correct Marxist- Leninist political line.
The Communist Party was able to develop this political line and to put it into practice, making it the backbone of the struggle of the Spanish people only because it always strove to follow the teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin and to apply, in the concrete conditions of Spain, the tactical principles of Leninism which were developed and supplemented by Stalin.
The Concrete Situation in Which the Struggle Developed,
and the Strategy of the Communists
Comrade Stalin teaches us that the starting point for the development of a correct political line is "the principle of absolutely taking into account the national peculiarities and the specific national features of each single country." (J. V. Stalin, Remarks on Timely Themes, p. 19, Russ. ed.)
What does this mean? It means that it is not enough to learn by rote various theses and teachings of Marxism-Leninism to avoid political mistakes, but that it is indispensable for the Communist Party to analyze the concrete internal and international situation with the greatest care, to study with the utmost seriousness its interaction and alignments. Only an analysis which does not merely make a general comparison of the situation at a given moment with that of other epochs and in other countries, but also takes into account the specific features and characteristics of the situation, only such an analysis can serve as the starting point for the formulation of a correct political line.
What was the concrete situation? And what were its specific features at the moment of the uprising of the Spanish reactionaries and during the period of intervention?
Spain was primarily an agrarian country of a petty-bourgeois type with considerable remnants of feudalism. This general character of the country was not changed during the five or six years of the bourgeois- democratic revolution (from April, 1931, to July, 1936), which preceded the national revolutionary war. Fifty-nine per cent of the employable population was engaged in agriculture and not more than 20 per cent in industry, transportation and commerce The rest of the population was employed either in the state administrative apparatus or in the municipal apparatus, in the army and in the so-called free professions. The distribution of land ownership was the best indication of the peasant, petty-bourgeois character of the country with strong influences of feudal remnants on the economic and political life.
Two per cent of the land owners, who could be described as large landowners (one hundred hectares and upwards), possessed 67 per cent of the entire arable land. To this group belonged the enormous latifundias of the Duke of Alba covering 96,000 hectares, those of the Duke of Medinaceli With 79,000 hectares, as well as those of the Duke of Peneranda with 52,000 hectares, and others. Eighty-six per cent of the owners of land (up to ten hectares) possessed altogether only 15 per cent of all the arable land. This picture becomes even clearer when we add that 39 per cent of all the owners of land possessed less than one hectare and that this enormous mass of land-impoverished peasants possessed altogether only 1.1 per cent of the entire acreage. Besides this, there were two and a half million land workers who had no land at all. A considerable part of the peasants who were counted as owners of land in the statistics, in reality were nothing but tenants or sub-tenants, so-called "rabassaires," a tenant relationship which most clearly reflected the semi-feudal character of Spanish agriculture.
The Catholic Church, the consort of feudalism, possessed nearly one-third of all the wealth of the country as well as a third of all the arable land. There were 200,000 monks in Spain. As against the 35,000 schools in Spain, there was a total of 36,000 churches, monasteries and chapels.
Of the 24,500,000 inhabitants, 7,000,000 belonged to the national minorities of Catalonia, the Basque country and Galicia. The national question was only partially solved by the Republic. The complete solution of this question was still ahead.
Heavy industry and machine construction, the barometer of the economic level of every country, were only slightly developed. Light industry (working-up of agricultural products, textile industry, etc.). which employed 67 per cent out of the total of 1,900,000 industrial workers, occupied a dominant position in the whole economic development of Spain. In light industry, handicraft production played an exceptionally big role; in the textile industry the small and middle owners likewise predominated. Light industry was only slightly concentrated. The opposite was the case, however, in heavy industry, especially in mining (coal, iron-ore, lead, copper, potash, quick-silver, etc.). Here, monopoly capital played a decisive role.
Spain was a capitalist country which oppressed colonial peoples; at the same time, however, Spain was a country exceptionally dependent on foreign capital, a country which was the theater of struggle between individual imperialist Powers who fought one another for consolidation of their own influence in this country at the expense of their rivals.
The strong remnants of feudalism prevailed especially in the army and navy as well as in the state apparatus whose leading cadres, particularly the top cadres, were recruited from the old-established nobility.
The historical consequences of this backwardness of Spain, as well as its medieval past which had not been completely overcome - provincialism, cantonalism, and regionalism - could be felt at every step. Provincialism not only put its stamp on the economic and political life of the country but also influenced the labor movement which was far more disunited than in any other large country of Europe. The well-known Spanish "Caciquism"* predominated in the state apparatus as well as in the villages, in the municipalities, in the political parties of the bourgeoisie and the petty- bourgeoisie, including the Socialist Party, in the trade union centers of the U.G.T. and the C.N.T.** Many provinces and cities were under the control of a clique of a few powerful and influential people who held sway absolutely without any hindrance.
Although the bourgeois-democratic revolution lasted more than six years, the basic tasks confronting the revolution remained unsolved, primarily the agrarian question.... Of the total of 4,000,000 land-impoverished peasants and land workers, only 150,000 had received land and this to an entirely unsatisfactory extent, without the necessary tools and instruments for its cultivation. The Church which was formally separated from the state was able to preserve all of its material possessions and consequently also a considerable part of its influence on political life. The army remained what it was before: the old reactionary army dominated by a caste spirit, a nest of counter-revolution. The condition of the working class likewise had not changed essentially.
The working class and peasant classes reacted to the sabotage of the capitalists and landowners with strike struggles and other methods of struggle. However, they did not receive the necessary support from the government, which was composed of representatives of the republican parties, so as to liquidate the counter-revolutionary machinations of the bourgeoisie, the landowners and the military which were secretly preparing an uprising.
This characterization of the internal situation must be supplemented by some of the most important features of the international situation in which the struggle of the Spanish people was taking place. This international situation was characterized by the intensification of the contradictions among the separate imperialist powers although this intensification had not yet led to the unleashing of war. In other words, there was still the possibility of forming a reactionary united front against revolutionary Spain.
All these peculiarities of the internal situation of the Spanish Republic as well as of the international situation were of decisive importance for the strategic task of the working class. To the Communist Party it was clear that in such a backward country as Spain, whose democratic problems were unsolved and which was faced with the urgent necessity of extending the social basis of the struggle inside the country as well as the basis of international solidarity, the socialist revolution could not be posed as the immediate task. For that reason, the Party, basing itself on the analysis of the given situation and on the concrete estimation of the interaction of forces, set itself the task of further developing and completing the bourgeois-democratic revolution.
This goal could only be attained by transforming the bourgeois-democratic republic into a democratic republic of a new type, a republic without big capitalists and landowners, a people's republic in which power would not be in the hands of the bloc of the bourgeoisie and the landowners as in the republic established April 14, 1931, but in the hands of the bloc of the working class, the peasants, the urban petty-bourgeoisie, the national minorities, a bloc in which the proletariat was destined to play the leading role.
The Communist Party understood that the development of the bourgeois-democratic revolution was a decisive prerequisite for interesting the broad masses of workers, peasants and petty-bourgeoisie in the armed struggle against the Spanish reactionaries and foreign interventionists, and that, furthermore, only a military victory over this enemy could make it possible to complete the bourgeois-democratic revolution and thus create the necessary prerequisites for the complete victory of the working class.
The Tactics of the Communists in the National Revolutionary War
But Comrade Stalin also teaches us that, in working out a correct political line and putting it into practice, it is not enough to confine ourselves merely to a concrete analysis of the situation in each country during each single period of struggle. A correct analysis can only be the basis, only the indispensable starting point for a correct tactical line. In addition to this, it is necessary to take into account:
"...the principle on the basis of which the Communist Party of each country must utilize even the slightest possibility of assuring an ally to the proletariat among the masses; even if this ally is only temporary, vacillating, insufficiently firm and uncertain." (J. V. Stalin, Remarks on Timely Themes, pp. 19-20.)
There were such mass allies of the proletariat in Spain. The Communist Party waged a consistent struggle in order to win these allies to the side of the proletariat. Its whole tactic, during the entire course of the national revolutionary war, was permeated by the effort to attract and keep these allies of the proletariat.
But in order to enable the working class to attract mass allies, to keep them, and to lead them over every turn and twist in the road and all the difficulties in the war; in order to enable the working class to overcome all frictions and conflicts and to eliminate all obstacles along its road, it was necessary to have a revolutionary party, a party which has accumulated sufficient experience, which is solid and disciplined, a party which can master the advanced revolutionary theory. The working class needed a truly Communist Party, Only such a party was able to assure the unity of the working class and faith in its own power during the struggle, as well as its hegemony in the bourgeois-democratic revolution, in the struggle for national independence. We Spanish Communists fought for the creation of such a party.
The decisive prerequisite for the realization of this leading role by the working class was the revolutionary unity of the proletariat. The Spanish proletariat was disunited. In addition, the Communist Party entered the arena of battle in a period when other parties, for example, the Social-Democrats and the Anarchists, already had great influence among the working masses. In individual provinces, as in the Basque country and Galicia, a considerable part of the workers were still under the influence of the bourgeois nationalist parties. The majority of the working class was united in two of the biggest trade union organizations, the U.G.T. and the C.N.T., organizations which had had deep roots in the Spanish labor movement for a long time. But these two trade union centers marched separately, each going its own way and not infrequently bitter fights took place between them.
All this shows that the question of realizing the unity of the proletariat in Spain was different from what it was, for example, in pre-revolutionary Russia. There, as Comrade Stalin points out, the political party of the working class had come into existence before the trade unions. There, the politIcal party directly led the struggle of the proletariat in all spheres, including the economic struggles.
The situation was different in the capitalist countries of Western Europe and Spain where the trade unions had come into existence much earlier than the labor parties. This peculiarity of the Western labor movement was expressed even more sharply in Spain than in the other countries. All the more so since Anarchism which was deeply rooted in the labor movement had carried on a systematic struggle against participation in politics by the workers and had done everything in its power to prevent the proletarian masses from understanding the decisive role of the revolutionary party in the labor movement.
The Bolsheviks who, under the brilliant leadership of Lenin and Stalin, had created a revolutionary party of a new type, were able right from the very beginning of the labor movement, by an irreconcilable struggle against the Mensheviks, to prevent the latter from taking root in the decisive sections of the labor movement and were thereby also in a position to insure the revolutionary unity of the working class under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party. The situation was different in Spain. The Communist Party of Spain had to forge this unity during the war. It had to make up for all that had been neglected in the course of decades and it was therefore necessary to take into account the powerful role which the trade unions traditionally played in the labor movement, and after the outbreak of the military uprising in the life of the entire country.
The Communist Party had achieved certain partial successes on the road to the creation of the unity of the working class (realization of united action between the U.G.T. and the C.N.T.); but it did not attain its main goal and primarily because cliques of politicians, reformists and Anarchists firmly entrenched in the apparatus of these two trade union organizations did not concern themselves with the interests of the working class since they did not want to carry the struggle to a victorious conclusion but, on the contrary, were trying to bring about capitulation. The lack of trade union unity weakened the unity of the working class and prevented the proletariat from playing the decisive role in the bourgeois-democratic revolution and in the struggle for national independence.
The most important ally that the Communist Party had to attract to the side of the proletariat was the tremendous mass of the peasantry. From the first day of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, the Party fought for the solution of the agrarian question and, at the same time, for the liquidation thereby of the feudal remnants which were widespread and deeply rooted in the country. In this way, it could establish a firm bond between the working class and the millions of peasants.
Our Party was the only political party in Spain which understood the vital necessity of such an alliance. It was the only party which issued the slogan of the confiscation of landed estates and church lands without compensation, as well as the slogan of the free distribution of this land among the poor peasants and agricultural workers. The Party was able to carry out the solution of this most decisive problem of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in a revolutionary manner only in the course of the war. It based itself on the revolutionary determination of the peasant masses to secure land.
The decree issued by the Communist Minister of Agriculture on October 7, 1936, fundamentally solved the agrarian question in the republican zone free from Franco rule: 4,860,386 hectares together with the inventory which is indispensable for cultivation of the land passed into the hands of the poor peasants and the agricultural workers. In addition, by granting credits and seeds, as well as by means of technical aid, the Ministry of Agriculture gave the most intensive material aid.
The Communist Party, striving for a close alliance with the peasants, took into account that the overwhelming majority of the peasants were not yet ready to cultivate the land collectively. It was therefore necessary to wage a stubborn and bitter struggle against the Anarchists as well as against the anarchistic Socialists who propagated the adventurist policy of the forcible collectivization and syndicalization of the land. Thanks to this consistent policy and the practical work of the Communist Party, these enemies of the peasantry who had done so much damage to the cause at the beginning of the war were unable to achieve their goal. The alliance of the working class and the peasantry was strengthened and assured.
By assuring this alliance with the peasant masses, however, the problem of allies was not yet fully solved. It was also necessary to draw in the sections of the lower middle class in the cities as well as those sections of the bourgeoisie which, for one reason or another, were interested in the struggle for the national independence of Spain. The People's Front policy as well as the endeavor of the Communist Party to broaden the social base of the People's Front with the object of transforming the People's Front into a national front was determined by the necessity of establishing a broad fighting front of the entire people under the leadership of the working class.
Since our Party went directly to the masses of people and to the soldiers and explained to them its own position which differed from that of the other parties and organizations in the People's Front, our Party was quite successful in reaching its goal. In this way, it gained influence among other parties and organizations and was able to induce their leaders to take the road pointed out by the Communists and desired by the masses.
The unification of the Socialist and Communist youth was of exceptionally great importance for the consolidation of the unity of the people's forces and for the extension of our possibilities for struggle. The United Socialist Youth gave the movement tens of thousands of self-sacrificing fighters who were loyal and devoted to the cause of our people.
From the very first days of the rebellion, the Communist Party understood that it was necessary to have a well-armed force, an army for the struggle against such a powerful enemy as ours. This recognition was strengthened by the experiences of Soviet Russia's civil war and the foreign intervention against it. We were guided by the words of Comrade Stalin which he had uttered at the Eighth Congress of the Bolshevik Party when the war against the interventionists was still in full swing:
"Either we create a real worker and peasant - primarily a peasant army, a strictly disciplined army, and defend the republic, or we perish." (History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union [B.], p. 235. International Publishers, New York.)
The Fifth Regiment established by the Communist Party was the basis for the realization of our line directed towards giving the people a politically reliable and trained military force. The social composition of the Fifth Regiment, its organization, discipline, fighting capacity and its heroism proved to be the strongest argument in convincing the broad masses whose hostility to the military was deeply rooted in hatred for the old army that the creation of a strong military formation was indispensable. Without it, the possibility of a successful struggle against internal and foreign reaction was entirely inconceivable.
By its daily experiences, the Fifth Regiment was able completely to demolish the "theories" of the Social-Democrats and Anarchists who, because of their inability to understand the fact of the transformation of our civil war into a national revolutionary war, stubbornly resisted the creation of an army on the "ground" that Spain was a country of partisans and not of soldiers and that its army always acted against the interests of the people. A serious blow was likewise delivered at the plans of the leaders of the republican parties and the military who aimed at merely uniting the remnants of the old army. The Communist Party knew how to overcome the resistance of all these and to insure the creation of regular people's army. The creation of a regular people's army followed the dissolution of the Fifth Regiment. The 70,000 fighters of this regiment were the nucleus and the soul of this new army. Thousands of the best commanders and commissars of the people's army came out of the Fifth Regiment.
However, with the creation of the army, new tasks arose for the Communist Party. The struggle for the necessary reserves had to be continued and it was also necessary to protect the political unity of the army against the daily attacks and the intrigues of the leaders of the Socialist, the Anarchist and Republican parties.
The line followed by the Party on the organization of the country's economy was determined by the necessities of the war as well as by the necessity of utilizing all possibilities to keep our allies. The war demanded the concentration of the most important economic resources of the country in the hands of the Government. However these objectives had to be achieved without weakening the alliance of the working class with the peasantry and the petty-bourgeoisie as with a part of the bourgeoisie. For these reasons, the Communist Party formulated the question of nationalization in such a way as not to affect all industries but only those enterprises that had been left behind by their owners who were connected with counter-revolutionary rebellion, as well as key industries, chiefly the war industry but also the transportation system (railroads, shipping and automobile transport).
The Communists advocated coordination of the basic branches of economy and therefore proposed the establishment of a Supreme Economic Council. The Communists combated the expropriation and the "collectivization" of small plants, a practice which was very much in vogue with the Anarchists and the Caballero-ites. The Communist Party carried through a policy which made it possible fully to utilize all the resources of the country without repelling the allies, at the same time strengthening the leading role of the working class in the development of the economic life.
The Communist Party fought for the establishment of a strong people's government, for a government which was capable of overcoming all difficulties and obstacles, capable of assembling and utilizing all the progressive forces and resources of the country in the interest of the victory of the Spanish people. It fought for a people's government which would express the alliance of the working class with other social strata of the population that were interested in the struggle for national independence. It fought for a government in which the leading role was to be reserved to the working class.
The Communist Party did everything in its power to destroy the old state apparatus and to establish a new apparatus in the service of the people. Such a strong people's government and such a state apparatus, indispensable instruments of a determined policy guaranteeing victory, could not be achieved, however, because of the insufficient revolutionary unity of the working class, because of the intrigues and the sabotage of the Social-Democratic, Anarchist and Republican leaders.
The Communist Party took account of the great importance of the tactical principle formulated by Comrade Stalin concerning the necessity for insuring mass allies for the working class. Our allies, for example, the Basque and Catalonian nationalists, and also the Spanish republicans, were constantly vacillating; they proved to be unstable and wavering. The Communist Party succeeded in keeping the allies on the side of the working class for a long time. However, the Party was unable to keep these allies of the working class up to the end of the war. The vacillations of the allies increased particularly in the final phase of the war; a part even left the People's Front at the most difficult moments. That was one of the causes for the defeat of revolutionary Spain.
The War in Spain Was a Lesson for the Masses and also for Us Communists
In determining our political and tactical line, we Spanish Communists took into account the tactical principle of Leninism formulated by Comrade Stalin:
"The principle of absolutely taking account of the truth that propaganda and education alone are not yet sufficient for the political education of millions, but that the political experience of the masses themselves is necessary." (J. V. Stalin, Remarks on Timely Themes, p. 20, Russ. ed.)
The bourgeois-democratic revolution, particularly during the period of the national revolutionary war, provided the masses with tremendous experience. In the course of this great struggle, the proletariat recognized its power and its role as a leading class. The peasant masses saw in the working class their new ally and best leader.
Thousands of new people emerged from the depths of the working class and from the Spanish people, men who, thanks to their heroism and their abilities, held 80 per cent of the higher and 90 per cent of the intermediate positions of command. In industry and agriculture, tens of thousands of men, women and youth revealed their creative enthusiasm by displaying a productive power hitherto unknown in the country and thereby insuring uninterrupted work in spite of the fact that the centers of production were the object of the chief and constant air attacks and bombardments by the enemy.
The initiative of the masses, their enthusiasm and their abnegation were the prerequisites for our biggest military operations: the defense of Madrid is the most conclusive evidence of the will and the energy of the people which made up for the mistakes of incompetent and subsequently traitorous commanders. A further evidence is the defense of the Levant where thousands of fighters fought without the slightest let-up for weeks on end, where the masses, with the fevered energy of inspiration, transformed the fields and hills of the Levant into fortified zones within a few days, blocking all the roads to the invading enemy. Finally, we must cite as evidence of this the battle at the Ebro, one of the biggest battles of our war, in which thousands of fighters, soldiers, commanders and political commissars stood firm for more than four months under the fire of hell and gave an example which may once again serve as evidence of the invincible power of the working class and its creative capacities.
In our war, the masses acquired their knowledge from living examples, a knowledge which is of decisive importance for the continuation of the struggle under new conditions. The masses grasped the importance of revolutionary unity, they understood that it is the task of the working class to assume leadership in the struggle of the entire people. They understood the importance of a firm alliance with the peasantry. After their bitter experiences with the "non-intervention policy," they understood the importance and the essential nature of bourgeois democracy as a form of capitalist rule. They convinced themselves that this democracy is nothing but a means for deceiving the masses, nothing but a smokescreen behind which the ruling sections of capitalist reaction conceal themselves. They convinced themselves with their own eyes that the "theory" and practice of anarchism collapsed at the first contact with the reality of the people's revolution. They convinced themselves that Social-Democracy leads the working class to defeat and that the leaders of the Second International betray the interests of the international proletariat just as they betrayed the interests of the Spanish people.
In their stubborn and heroic struggle, the masses recognized that there is no other road to liberation from exploitation and the yoke of capitalism than revolutionary struggle. The Spanish working class recognized that proletarian internationalism is that force which welds the working class into a united front against the common enemy. From the experiences of their struggle, it also recognized the deep abyss which separates the capItalist states from the land of socialism. The idea of socialism therefore struck deep roots in the consciousness of the masses for, during the days of the difficult struggle, its most devoted friends were by their side. That is why the Spanish workers utter the words "Soviet Union" and the name of Comrade Stalin with profound and inexhaustible love.
Millions of workers, peasants and intellectuals have understood the role of a revolutionary party for the first time. They saw this party in its daily work, at the most dangerous posts and they recognized in it a powerful, reliable force capable of defending the interests of the working class. They recognized it as their own party. That is why they joined with it in solving the daily tasks; that is why they actively supported it and gave it their fullest confidence.
If the toiling masses were able to understand all this, it is only because of their own experiences and the leadership of the Communist Party which strove to raise their class consciousness on the basis of their own experiences.
If the Communist Party became a genuine mass party of the working class, it is because it not only educated the masses but also learned from the masses. In doing this, we followed the eminent words of Comrade Stalin:
"We leaders see things, events and people from one side only; I would say, from above. Our field of vision, consequently, is more or less limited.
"The masses, on the contrary, see things, events and people from another side; I would say, from below. Their field of vision, consequently, is also in a certain degree limited. To receive a correct solution of the question these two experiences must be united. Only in such a case will the leadership be correct." (J.V. Stalin, Mastering Bolshevism, p. 56. Workers Library Publishers, New York.)
At the beginning of the bourgeois-democratic revolution (April, 1931), our Party was not much more than an association of groups scattered throughout the country, lacking ideological clarity as well as organizational stability. The Party grew in the daily struggles, gradually freeing itself from sectarianism and by 1935 numbered 20,000 members.
The Party's active participation in the armed struggle in Asturias, its work in uniting the forces of the working class, its vanguard role of drawing all the progressive forces of the country into the ranks of the people's front against reaction - which was preparing the establishment of a terroristic dictatorship - all this encouraged thousands of supporters to join the ranks of the Party so that it had 100,000 members on the eve of the putsch engineered by the generals.
When the armed struggle began, the Party had to solve political and organizational tasks of the greatest importance while on the march, so to speak; tasks which in view of their character and their scope were unprecedented. The war required Party cadres for the army, for industry, for the fields, for the state apparatus, for the trade unions and for the current Party work; it required reliable and capable cadres who understood the new situation and were the real guides and leaders of the masses.
The Communist Party grew and was steeled in the armed struggle at the front and in the struggle against the enemies of the people at the rear, against the so-called Fifth Column and criminal counter-revolutionary Trotskyism. The Party grew and was strengthened in the struggle against Anarchistic adventurism and against Social-Democratic opportunism.
Comrade Stalin teaches us to watch over the unity and ideological purity of the Party. We waged a merciless struggle against all deviations in our ranks; we strengthened Party discipline and were able to establish iron unity in our ranks to the extent that we were able to meet all the tests which the war brought with it.
The teachings of Lenin and Stalin on the Party of a new type enabled the Spanish Communists to forge a party of more than 300,000 members (in the Republican territory alone), a Party which corrected its mistakes and was not afraid of criticism and self-criticism. From the great Stalin, we Spanish Communists also learned revolutionary boldness, vigilance against the intrigues of the enemy, firmness in carrying out policy, and flexibility in face of sudden unexpected changes in the situation.
Our Party enjoyed the authority and support of the broadest masses. And that was quite natural since the people saw the courage and the heroism of the Communists during the unforgettable days of the defense of Madrid, of Teruel and the battles at the Ebro. The people saw that the Party did not merely confine itself to correct directives and teachings but led the way by example. The Party understood how to communicate its spirit of self-sacrifice and heroism to the masses. During the uninterrupted struggles, the Party always maintained the closest ties with the masses. That is why the Communist Party was loved by the Spanish people and will always continue to be loved.
The Communist Party of Spain followed a correct political line during the national revolutionary war. But it was not free from mistakes. The chief mistake of the leadership of our Party was the fact that, in face of threatening counter-revolutionary rebellion in Madrid (March 5-6, 1939), it did not inform the masses of this; and that it did not act as boldly and resolutely, when the rebellion was already in progress, as the difficult situation required. But the Party always recognized its mistakes honestly which contributed to the fact that its prestige and ties with the masses were only strengthened.
But despite the correct political line of our Party, the Spanish people suffered a serious defeat. The Franco Government wanted to utilize this fact in order to destroy our Party, that selfless and ardent fighter against the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and the landowners. Despite the countless blows against the Party, it will always live, for it lives deep in the hearts of the masses.
In the new situation, the Spanish Communists were seized neither by panic nor despair. We remember the words of Comrade Stalin:
"A real revolutionist is not one who displays courage in the period of victorious uprising, but one who knows how to fight well not only at the moment of the victorious advance of the revolution but also in the period when the revolution is retreating, who displays courage in the period of the defeat of the proletariat, who does not lose his head, who does not go off the track when the revolution suffers defeat and the enemy records successes, who does not become panicky and fall into despair in the period when the revolution is retreating." (J. V. Stalin, On the Opposition, p. 105, Russ. ed.)
Our Party, educated in the spirit of Lenin and Stalin, has preserved its political unity, its loyalty to the principles of Marxism-Leninism, its firm determination to overcome this transitory and difficult period. It has preserved its unshakable faith in the inevitable victory of the working class. All this steels the Communists and makes them firm, unshakable champions of the working class.
Neither the sudden change in the situation nor the propaganda with which reaction wants to conceal the imperialist character of the war, neither hunger nor terror are able to disconcert the Communists, to frighten or terrorize them.
The majority of our members are fulfilling their Party duty in the new situation also. In the concentration camps of Spain, simple Party members are giving an example of steadfastness, self-sacrifice and an unshakably firm will to meet these new tests of the struggle.
Franco's tribunals have condemned thousands of Communists but they have been unable to hold a single public trial of Communists as they did in the trials of the "penitent" Socialist and Anarchist leaders, because the Communists are steadfast and courageous In the preliminary hearings and in court as befits proletarian revolutionists.
The thousands of Communists, penned-up in the hell-holes of French concentration camps, preserve their loyalty to the Party and the working class.
"You will understand the difficulty of our situation," one comrade writes, "for the policy of reaction is frightful towards us. Each day, the struggle assumes sharper forms inside as well as outside our prisons. Our enemies utilize every opportune moment to deal us a blow. But we are resisting and they are driven to despair. To this very day, we have not lost a single position, a single man. We guard the Party like the apple of our eye and can record good results.
"...We find the direction ourselves, we increase our resourcefulness, we do not submit but go forward. We shall never desert our place of honor as the vanguard which we conquered for ourselves. We perfect ourselves in the daily struggle against the enemy and by studying the work of our teachers.
"...Our roofs are falling to pieces, the windows are without panes, the doors do not close and our stomachs are empty, but you may be sure that our arms are not folded -- we are fighting for our common cause."
The triumph of reaction in Spain has not eliminated the causes which drove our people into battle, but has only made them more acute. The working class, the peasants and the masses of people have experienced better days. They had the factories and the land in their hands; they had seen what freedom is and they were masters of their own fate. Our people lived without landlords, without big capitalists and they know what this is worth.
For that reason, the struggle continues in a new form. In this new situation, a struggle to reconquer that which was robbed from the masses, a struggle to enhance all the gains up to complete emancipation. For this struggle, the masses have the rich experiences of a war and a revolution which constitute an invaluable arsenal for the coming battles.
The Spanish working class has its Communist Party which -- educated by the teachings of Marxism-Leninism and steeled in the severest struggle -- is working for the reunification of its own forces and the forces of the working class for the struggle against the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and the landowners. In the Communist Party, the Spanish working class has a Party which, in the present difficult situation, will more than ever be guided by the brilliant teachings of the great masters Lenin and Stalin, a Party which will lead the working class to victory under the triumphant banner of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin.
* Cacique - the most Influential figure in the semi-feudal Spanish village, the chief representative of the reactionary policies of the landowners, in reality, the all-powerful and absolute lord and master of the village.
** The General Workers Union and the National Confederation of Labor respectively. - The Ed.
History of the
Spanish Civil War
This article is a translation of "Lessons From Our National Revolutionary War Against Fascism, 1936-1969" by the Communist Party of Spain (M-L), Ediciones Vanguardia Obrera, 1969, Madrid.
I. The Spanish Must Learn the Lessons of our National War Against Fascism.
The Spanish Civil War is the most important fact in the revolutionary march of the Spanish people. No longer classifiable as an old-style democratic-bourgeois revolution, it must be seen as belonging to the epoch of the proletarian revolution initiated by the October Revolution in Russia. It aroused the revolutionary conscience of the Spanish people to unimaginable levels and became an example for the whole world.
The victory of fascism in Spain has for the present time blocked the march to socialism. But this is only temporary. And so, in order to be able to once again take the revolutionary road outlined by Lenin, Stalin and Mao Tsetung, the accomplishments and failures of the Party must be thoroughly studied. The revisionists have never made a critical analysis of the causes of the defeat of the popular masses of Spain and the errors of the Party. Quite the contrary. They have attempted to hide them and to absolve the Party of all responsibility for this defeat. But there can be no doubt that, given the size and influence of the Party at that time, it must bear a large share of the responsibility.
In making this critique, however, we do not mean to demean its great accomplishments. For after all is said and done, the Communist Party of Spain was the "soul of the war, the most heroic and self-sacrificing of all the political parties involved." Without its leadership and support the people of Spain would have been crushed in a few weeks and would not have been able to inflict such heavy losses on the fascists.
Mao Tsetung has shown that the fact that objective conditions are right does not automatically insure victory. What is needed in addition is the conscious activity of man – that is, how the war is directed and carried out. Our national war against fascism was by nature a just war. The Popular Front enjoyed the overwhelming support of the popular masses. Although the international situation was "difficult," never has there been such a display of solidarity with any cause. And yet the war was not won. Hence, the logical conclusion is that the conscious activity of the Party was misdirected; that it did not know the proper way to carry on the war.
The war, say the revisionists, is an historical fact which we should forget. This is an incorrect interpretation because it ignores the fact that the war is still going on. Why is it possible to state this? Because the causes which produced it have not disappeared. If anything, the contradictions have become more acute. How can one talk now, as the revisionists do, of "peace and national reconciliation" when foreign invaders still occupy our soil and the people are still saddled with fascism? In 1939 Franco sold the country to the Nazis; now it is US imperialism which holds the mortgage. In reality, the "liberalization" and "democratization" of which the revisionists speak is an illusion; the clothing may be new, but underneath the body is still the same. Moreover, the fact that the relationship of international forces has changed does not mean that Franco and fascism can be deposed by peaceful means. The task of the Communist Party of Spain today is to unite all popular classes of Spain against Franco and to lead an armed struggle against Franco and his imperialist backers.
II. The Political Situation in Spain from 1931 to 1936.
Unlike most of the other countries of Western Europe, the Spanish bourgeoisie never completed its revolution. Important sectors of the economic and social life of the country remained under the control of the feudal classes. As a result the progress and development of productive forces were, for the most part, blocked throughout the entire 19th century. This was approximately the situation up until 1931. But on April 13 of that year the insoluble contradictions between the financial and landowning oligarchy and the popular forces reached such a peak that the king was overthrown and the Second Republic proclaimed. But once again the weak and vacillating bourgeoisie failed to take the decisive measures necessary to insure social progress. The economic and political privileges of the dominant classes were left intact. Key posts in the army were left in the hands of the reaction. The agrarian reform instituted in 1932 was timid in the extreme. And, unfortunately, during this period the working class was profoundly divided between social democratic and anarchist tendencies. The Communist Party was not strong enough at that time to assert its leadership of the labor movement.
In 1933 the reaction again took over the reins of power, unleashing a fierce campaign of repression and terror known as the "Bienio Negro" (2 black years). In October 1934 there were widespread popular uprisings against the government, especially in Asturias, Madrid and Barcelona. It was during this period that the formation of the Popular Front was begun with strong Communist support and participation. In the elections of 1936, the forces of reaction suffered an overwhelming defeat. But because of the divisions in the working class, the new government was still basically bourgeois in content and form. And as was to be expected, it was weak and vacillating. Its fatal mistake, however, was to ignore the repeated warnings of the Communist Party that the reaction was not going to take its defeat at the polls with folded hands. And so when Franco struck on July 18, 1936, the country was completely unprepared for the attack.
III. The National Revolutionary War against Fascism; the Policy of the Party of Alliances.
With the attack on the republican government, the character of the Spanish Civil War changed from a bourgeois-democratic revolution to that of a proletarian revolution. And from this moment on the SPC became the most important party in Spain because it was the only one capable of leading the people to victory. During the initial period of the popular resistance the line of the Party was essentially correct: to reinforce the Popular Front. And because of this correct line, the Party quickly gained in prestige and strength. It must in all honesty be said that the Party did try to achieve the unity of the proletariat. But since it was not able to do so, the reasons for this failure must be carefully studied. The main errors of the Party were as follows:
1. Shackling itself to republican legalism and not taking advantage of new forms of power arising among the masses.
In the beginning of the war, there was a great atomization of republican power; each party had its organs of power, each region was more or less autonomous. On paper all were to come under the jurisdiction of the Popular Front. But the truth of the matter is that this government had little authority. And the Party was unableto resolve the contradiction between the need for a single front and government and the interests of the different groups and classes involved in resisting Franco. New forms of popular power arose spontaneously, such as popular revolutionary committees. The Party should have encouraged their development and sought to unify them under its leadership. Instead, out of fear of violating petty-bourgeois "legality," it shackled itself to outworn republican institutions. It tried to do everything through the Popular Front. But as Mao Tsetung has pointed out in his Question of Independence and Initiative Within the United Front, there are times when the Party must consult with the front before moving and times when it must move first and inform the front later.
An example of this neglect of popular forms of power is the case of the Junta de Defensa de Madrid (Defense Council of Madrid). The Junta was born of the immediate need to defend Madrid from the Fascists. Without consulting its allies about the correctness of its action, the Party quickly forged a powerful popular force capable of defeating the fascists. Without this move on the part of the Party, the resistance in Madrid would have been virtually nonexistent. Unfortunately, however, the Party was unable to draw the proper lessons from this magnificent display of popular power. In the words of the document, "They took it as an isolated incident without seeing in it the nucleus of the future political structure which would have permitted us to win the war and which was drawn from practical life and created by the popular revolutionary masses under the leadership of the Party. Instead of seizing upon this example, instead of extending this experience throughout all of Spain the Party, out of fear of petty-bourgeois forces, it let the Junta languish to the point of extinction thus depriving the people of the most genuine form of popular power that it had heretofore acquired."
2. Loss of independence within the Popular Front.
The Party thought of the united front as the organ of unity whose task it was to direct the revolution. This was correct. But in order for a front to be able to carry out this role, it must be directed by the working class and its Communist Party Since the front was an amalgam of largely petty-bourgeois forces, the Party was not bound to do everything through it. The Party did not clearly understand its role. This can only be interpreted as a failure on its part to comprehend the true nature of the revolution – proletarian rather than bourgeois democratic. Jose Diaz and authentic Marxist-Leninists elements did understand, but, unfortunately they were defeated in the intra-party struggle with the right-wing elements led by Ibarruri and Carrillo.
3. Failure to achieve unity of the working class and to create a unified proletarian Party.
From the above two points it can be inferred that one of the chief causes of the defeat of the revolutionary forces was the lack of unity of the working class. The temporary unity achieved in the initial stages of the war soon dissolved under the pressure of conflicting interests. The truth was that the working class was influenced by many non-proletarian ideas, social democratic and anarchist ones being the most important. Despite the enormous prestige and power of the SPC, it never successfully wrested the control of the labor movement out of the hands of these forces. Failure to do this was again a result of a wrong line on alliances. Unprincipled concessions were made to the two large labor union confederations, the UGT and the CNT, in order to maintain a unity of form rather than content. Unity should have been sought at the base by means of struggle and ideological debate rather than at the top leadership of the rival parties. But in Ibarruri's book, El Unico Camino, she insists on the principle that Communists should not engage in proselytizing; rather than having forbidden it, she should have made it a duty of every Communist.
4. Not having forcefully demanded popular consultation at opportune times.
The war should have been run on the principle of democratic centralism so that the masses could have developed their own initiative and be led to see in the government the true representative of their own interests. But throughout the whole war we find that "the organs of power were based on the relationship of forces existing in the Popular Front prior to the fascist uprising, relationships which had in the meantime undergone profound changes. The popular masses should have been consulted in order to correctly represent the people in the state and to incorporate and link them more closely to the organs of power."
But this was not done. And so throughout the war, the members of the Cortes (Parliament) were, for the most part, those elected in February 1936.
5. Tagging behind the petty-bourgeoisie.
If we examine the actions of the Party during the war, we see that it never really understood the necessity for the proletariat to be at the head of the struggle. It strove only to take its place beside the petty-bourgeoisie and the progressive elements of the middle bourgeoisie. And so it happened that all these other elements really led while the Party simply tagged along.
This policy can be illustrated by the following things:
The reluctance of the Party to take part in the government; the lack of importance of the two ministries it finally agreed to accept – Education and Agriculture; the reluctance to assume positions of leadership in the army; the acceptance of the depoliticizing of the Popular Army by Prieto; and finally, its reluctance to take complete power in the last days of the struggle.
In summarizing this point, the documents state: "History shows that we can neither trust nor follow the 'progressive' bourgeoisie because, generally speaking, with the exception of certain honorable and meritorious persons, they prefer to temporize when faced with the threat of fascism rather than to turn over the leadership to the proletariat. Only after the fascist invasion and bloodbath did a part of these classes fight fascism. And later on they betrayed the proletarian masses and surrendered to imperialism. This is an historical lesson of rich content which we cannot forget."
6. Abandoning the rearguard, but at the same time not controlling the Popular Army and not placing the armed forces under its control.
The role of the Communist Party in the army was great – almost half of the Popular Army was made up of communists and their sympathizers. But it failed to realize that it is necessary to maintain a rearguard, for without a rearguard maintained by the Party, the front cannot be sustained.
Despite the large number of communists in the army it was always securely in the hands of the vacillating bourgeoisie. And so the Party committed the double error of abandoning the rearguard and not taking control of the army. And what is worse, the Fifth Regiment, which was organized and largely made up of communists, was unconditionally placed under the leadership of the Republican Army.
7. Reliance on the so-called "Western Democracies."
The policy of the republican government toward international alliances was vacillating. While on the one hand it took a correct position by asking for international solidarity and close ties with the USSR, on the other it never stopped begging aid from countries which not only did not give it, but cynically and hypocritically granted it to Franco. And while the government and the Party denounced the policy of "non-intervention," they did not alert the popular masses to the futility of relying on the Western "democracies," especially France.
IV. Participation in the Government
The role of the party in the government was certainly positive. For example, Vicente Uribe, Minister of Agriculture, directed one of the most revolutionary actions of the republican government – land reform. In addition, the Ministry of Education under Hernandez carried out important education projects and reforms, such as the literacy campaign.
But it was only at the insistence of Largo Caballero that the Communist Party finally consented to enter the government. And throughout the entire war their role was one of inferiority. Today the revisionists try to make a virtue of this reluctance, calling it evidence of "impartiality" and "loftiness of vision." In reality, though, it was really "blindness as to what should be the role of the Party in this era of proletarian revolutions." The revisionists, in their assessment of their role in the war, are trying to say to the present Spanish bourgeoisie that they are willing to do the same thing again. But unfortunately for them, the new Communist Party of Spain (M-L) and the proletariat are now clearly aware of the fact that, from now on, the role of the Party cannot be anything but a leading one.
The anarchist-Trotskyite putsch of Barcelona in the spring of 1937 presented the Party with an excellent chance to reinforce its participation in the government without damaging its alliances. But even with the fall of the Caballero Government, the Party did not attempt to relinquish its secondary role and emerge from the shadows. And this despite the undeniable fact that it was the only party strong enough to mobilize the masses and defeat the counter-revolution.
And after the fall of Catalonia, the Party could have taken over the whole state apparatus and resisted to the end, as Jose Diaz repeatedly insisted. But in the interest of the formal unity of the Popular Front, the Party agreed to the capitulation. By so doing, it lost sight of the fact that "the object of unity was to struggle against fascism and the foreign invaders and not to capitulate." The Party at that moment should have transformed its unworkable and outmoded alliances, got rid of all vacillating elements, and by relying on the most militant and trusted fighters, assumed the predominant role commensurate with its prestige among the popular masses. In this way it would not have been jeopardizing antifascist unity but strengthening it.
V. Strategy, Tactics, Participation in the Armed Forces.
Objectively speaking, conditions were right for a military victory. The cause for failure must therefore be sought in certain subjective errors analyzed as follows:
1. Character of the war and its strategy.
A correct strategy for fighting a war cannot be determined unless a profound analysis of objective conditions is made. The Party did not do this. And so it chose a type of war which was to the enemy's advantage – classical, positional warfare. People's war, on the contrary, must adopt a strategy in keeping with its usually inferior equipment – that is, a war of annihilation based on movement, combined with guerrilla operations in the enemy's rearguard. The Party did not avail itself of the rich experiences of the people's war against Napoleon in Spain in 1808. Guerrilla nuclei of peasants and day laborers should have been organized in enemy-occupied territory. But permission for this from the army was never forthcoming. After the capitulation, most of the armed forces slipped over into France. At this point, guerrilla resistance should have been organized. The army could even have attempted some sort of strategic retreat toward the South Central Zone. At any rate, the retreat to France was a move devoid of revolutionary perspective and showed a lack of faith in the people.
Moreover, if we analyze the actions of the People's Army during the war, we see that it almost never took the initiative except during the first two months of the war. Even its so-called offensives were, for the most part, responses to heavy enemy pressure. The Party was not aware of the fact that a People's Army must always keep the initiative, not only in attack, but in retreat as well.
At Guadalajara when defensive tactics and positional warfare were abandoned and a flexible tactic of movement was adopted, the People's Army surprised the enemy and defeated him. But sufficient reserves were not on hand to take full advantage of the victory. So even though the tactics used at the moment happened to be correct, no change in basic strategy was made.
Contrary to what the revisionists claim, the Battle of the Ebro was not a victory. It would be more appropriate to call it "the beginning of the end." This was so for the following reasons: first, the People's Army lost the initiative almost at the beginning of the battle and persisted in defending the territory. And secondly, all its principal forces were committed in this battle – once annihilated, the resistance collapsed. Valencia was momentarily saved, but the best troops of the People's Army were destroyed. The objective should have been the destruction of the greatest possible number of enemy troops, after which, the army should have retreated.
2. Policy in relation to the armed forces.
The policy of creating a People's Army was correct. This should always be considered one of the great achievements of the Party. And the Fifth Regiment, which was created at the insistence of the Party and without prior government approval, became the nucleus of this army. But the Party's eagerness to create this army led it into making unprincipled concessions. The Fifth Regiment was unconditionally turned over to republican hands. Moreover, the Party did not resist the governmental policy ofkeeping communists out of key army Posts despite the fact that over half of the fighters in the People's Army were either Communists or members of the United Socialist Youth.
Indalecio Prieto as Minister of War did every-thing possible to dampen the revolutionary spirit of the People's Army and imposed many anti-communist measures which the Party should never have tolerated. He prohibited the participation of the military inpopular actions and attempted to bureaucratize the political commissars. He even forbade the dissemination of political propaganda throughout the enemy lines.
To summarize, the principal errors of the Party with respect to the army were as follows:
Mistaken concept of the type of war and the consequent adoption of erroneous strategy and tactics.
Lack of understanding of the strategic importance of guerrilla warfare in a people's revolutionary war.
Vacillation in the face of treasonous acts and elements in the army.
Failure to control the key posts in the army and turning over its own forces to the bourgeoisie.
Failure to organize popular armed struggle after the fall of Catalonia.
Acceptance of the plan to let the bulk of the People's Army slip over the Pyrenees into France.
New York 1938